Michigan Wildlife Pictures and Stories

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picture of a rainbow over Plainwell, Michigan
Welcome to Michigan wildlife. When it comes to the habitat that supports Michigan wildlife, usually one of two types of habitat springs to mind, coastal areas and forests.

Outside of Michigan, people may be unaware of the face that much of the state is coastal. Four of the five Great Lakes border the state and to the number of inland lakes in the state. The 3,000 miles of coastline support almost 150 bird species. Of course some of them might also choose forest habitat, but the presence of many water birds such as shorebirds and ducks serves to differentiate wildlife in the two habitats.

Michigan can rightfully be characterized as a land of forests. Moving south to north in the state dramatically increases forest cover. Southern areas are predominantly agriculture areas with a small portion of forested areas. Boreal forests begin appearing in bulk as one progresses north to the Upper Peninsula. Recent Michigan government statistics, for example show that most counties in the Upper Peninsula have close to ninety percent forest cover.

Michigan’s three National Forests cover over three million acres of land. Michigan state forests add an additional four million acres of land. Add in over one hundred state parks and the potential wildlife watching options in the state are endless.

Both sets of forests, for example, are filled with wildlife from the forest floor to the top of the forest canopy. Wildlife watching is one hike or campground stay away.

The adjective Boreal attached to a variety of Michigan wildlife such as Boreal animals and Boreal birds.

When it comes to Michigan animals, boreal or other, it’s important to note that wolverines do not live in Michigan. The small population was extirpated in the nineteenth century. Everyone in Michigan knows that. The incongruence between symbol and reality consistently gets addressed, and life in Michigan goes on. In 1997 the White-tailed Deer was designated the official state game mammal, and that’s about all the official celebrating of mammals that occurs in the state.

Otherwise, both the Boreal Forests and many parts of the coastal Great Lakes areas provides habitat for larger mammals, that range from common to uncommon.

  • Black Bears
  • Moose, state threatened
  • Gray wolf, state threatened
  • Coyotes
  • Cougars
  • Canadian lynx, state endangered
  • Red Fox

picture of a Painted Tuttle, the Michigan state reptile
Both the forested areas and coastal areas support wetlands and they are the primary habitat for the state’s amphibian and reptile population. Because of it’s northern climate Michigan supports a modest amount of both amphibian and reptile species. The painted turtle, pictured, is the official state reptile.

picture of an American Toad in Michigan, Michigan wildlife
Two toad species add to Michigan wildlife diversity. Sometimes it’s quite the puzsle to identify the American Toad and the Fowler’s toad because their skin color does little to help with identification. The picture shows a very colorful toad that has a skin color to blend in with the fall leaves.

A few identification clues might help the process. For example, on average, the American Toad has spots on the underside of the chin and top of chest. The picture shows the toad to have the spots. Therefore, the toad is tentatively identified as the American Toad.

Michigan Birds

picture of an American Robin, the state bird of Michigan, and part of the Michiganwildlife section
Finally, by way of an introduction to Michigan wildlife, think birds. A total of approximately 450 birds make the official Michigan birds checklist. Most experts suggest that Michigan hosts a healthy 360 bird species over the course of a year, with 233 of them documented as breeding birds.

The people of Michigan are especially fond of their songbirds, having designated the American Robin, or Robin Redbreast as the official state bird.

They live year round in most areas of the country. Some migrate short or longer distances in the state during the winter. They can be found in backyards, although not at the feeders. Typically their diet consists of insects and some berries.

picture of a gray jay
Northern Michigan residents host more species than southern Michigan for the simple fact that the landscape is less developed. The boreal forests of the north support a variety of species that many tourists might want to add to their life lists including the spruce grouse, gray jay, black-backed woodpecker and boreal chickadee.

picture of a Piping Plover at the beach
The Great Lakes area also provides great birding opportunities. More than 140 species of birds depend on Michigan’s coastal habitat during their life cycle. Coastal wetlands, beaches, sand dunes and remote islands provide food and shelter for both resident and migratory species.

Common shorebirds such as sandpipers and plovers breed along the coastal areas in the north and south. The picture shows a Piping Plover, one of the threatened species in Michigan. They nest along sandy beaches.

The Michigan Audubon supports birding in the southern end of the state by maintaining nine bird sanctuaries around the population centers of Ann Arbor, Lansing, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo.

Detroit, the eastern urban area also provides great birding. Experts suggest that tourists try the Gabriel Richard Park on the Detroit RiverWalk. Locals report the area can see up to 300 year round and migratory species. Songbirds are as big a hit as Mowtown during the migratory season.

In short, birding opportunities are available throughout the state.

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